Troupe brings the black experience alive in show

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Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 4:00 pm | Updated: 9:07 pm, Mon Mar 25, 2013.

SARASOTA - As we approach the final week of Black History Month, we pay tribute to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. They have crossed racial lines, touched the hearts of the entire community, and brought the black experience alive on the Suncoast through song and dance.

On Saturday they present "We Are Because They Were". It’s about a group of high school students working on a black history project. "You are actually going to see these kids in different areas going home, out with other students, learning about black history and really understanding what happened, the different facts about it, and the struggle that everybody went through in order for us to be here today and to be able to perform," says director and co-creator Will Little.

"I like that they make history fun. You know, sometimes we think ‘oh, history…[snore]. They present it in a way where not only adults are interested, but children are interested," says actress Kristen Wilson.

The play uses music, poetry, drama, and dance to tell the story. "It's amazing how the writer, Dhakeria Cunningham, wove in the music – today’s music, today's dances -- with the music of the past, with the dances of the past. And it makes it more interesting. It makes you relate to it," says Wilson.

It features the many types of music that's a part of the black experience. "A lot of great music, a lot of the old music; the spirituals, the jazz, the hymns…all those things that really helped define African Americans during that time,” says Little.

To help their story and what they were going thru ")

And it warns against repeating past mistakes. "I don't think this play is meant to reopen wounds in any way, but I think it is trying to point to those scars and say ‘look at how this can still happen today’," says actor Jake Staley.

It has a profound effect on those on stage. "When you go out there, you have such an astounding story you're telling, and you see that it can help someone, that it can change a life and entertain at the same time. It doesn't make you satisfied with what you did, it makes you want to do more," says Wilson.

"We Are Because They Were" will be at the Westcoast Black Theatre for one performance only: Saturday at 2pm.

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